Android Games – Let’s start playing on my phone again.

It has been quite some time since I wrote an article with short reviews of Android games, has it not? Lately, I have been focussing on the bigger games and I haven’t given the smaller games some time to shine on my blog. Also, when I was talking about a smaller game, I wrote a longer article on it instead of a short review. But, since I’m currently working on bigger articles and I didn’t want to skip this week, I decided I wanted to bring this series back and start talking about a few smaller games I have been playing on my phone lately. So, let’s start talking about smaller Android games and let’s take a quick look if they are worth your time/money. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the games and/or the content of this article.

ProgressBar95

Steam versionAndroid version

For those who don’t know, I’m 28 years old, and I also have a day job. This day job is being an IT admin in a big art secondary school (high school for some) here in Belgium. My work days are filled with solving problems that teachers and students have, improving our IT infrastructure, developing our website… Apart from that, I’m also a big fan of old tech and I love messing around with old computers and technology.

So, when I came across ProgressBar95 on the app store, I downloaded the game right away. And I fell in love with it right away. The game keeps true to its tagline that this game is a “hypercasual UI game”. The main idea of this game is that you are a progress bar that needs to catch dropping squares to make the progress bar progress. Blue and light blue are good ones, orange are errors but still help you in progress. Pink detracts from your progress bar, so you can get rid of orange squares if you want.

Depending on how well you do, the amount of points you get to unlock various upgrades to your computer. The higher your level, the more difficult this game becomes and the more points you can earn. This game also works with lives, but if you run out of lives, you don’t have to wait a certain amount of time for them to recharge and try the game again.

So, the interface of this game is top-notch. It nails the ascetic of being a computer amazingly. For example, to toggle sound on or off, you can press the sound icon in the bottom right of the computer. If you click the “EN” of the language toolbar, you can switch languages. It also has a colorblind mode, cloud saving, multiple game modes and one of the best ways to handle microtransactions I have seen.

The different gameplay modes I have played so far is a sort infinite runner Wolfenstein game and a “dodge the red numbers and get to the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet”-game. They add so much variety to the game and I love going between them if I’m bored with one game mode.

The biggest recommendation I would give to you is that you buy the extremely cheap “no-ads” package. Overall, the ads aren’t annoying but the game improves so much without forced ads. Now, if you look at the whole shop, you might think that this game is a “pay-to-win” or a money sink. But, no. You can pay to unlock all other levels but 99% of the stuff in the store can be earned easily in-game by winning levels or doing side quests.

It’s clear that this game has a lot of love put into it and I have a hard time finding anything negative about this game. Apart from this game being extremely niche and the game being a little boring for extend playthroughs… But yeah, I honestly would recommend this game to all my other retro gamers or people who are into computer science. It’s an amazing and refreshing experience.

Score: 5/5.

Word Lanes

Android store

So, when I’m in a waiting room or have some time to kill, I love playing small games. Especially when they are puzzle games like word searches or connect the dots to give two examples.

In Word Lanes, you are presented with a grid of letters, and you have to find all the words that fit the clues at the top. Each letter can only be used once and the letters have to connect horizontally or vertically to be used in a word.

This game is rather relaxing, and it’s a great way for me to unwind. I also love how the game is fully translated into my native language. The only complaint I have about that is the fact that as a Belgian person, I always have to struggle when the hint is talking about something from the Netherlands. But, I always report them with a handy report feature after you solved a clue. With this report feature you can report typo’s, wrong clues and things like that.

I’m also on the fence about the microtransactions. You earn coins to use the hint features after beating a level, but I feel I always don’t have enough. Thankfully, you have these daily rewards and saving them up is easy then. Honestly, I just think that the prices of the power-ups are a tad bit too high.

But hey, that’s a minor complaint. Since this game has so much enjoyment to offer and the ads aren’t THAT intrusive and only play between levels. Also, quite frequently, I have an option where the ads are disabled for one day. This is amazing and actually makes me consider buying the “no ads” package since I got a free trial.

Score: 4/5

Reigns

Android store

Way back in 2017, I wrote an article about Questr. A game that has some “Tinder” style gameplay while being a questing game. Now, that game was more about adventuring while you created your party with a sort of Tinder app. In this game, the main feature of Tinder of swiping left to reject or right to approve, is set into a “choose your own adventure” game.

Reigns is published by DeveloperDigital and is so close to be amazing, it’s painful. The gameplay is quite addictive, and I love taking decisions as an immortal king on how my kingdom should progress. The atmosphere, sound effects, music and visual design is amazing. It really pulls you into the game and I love playing the game but…

It’s way too easy to take a decision. It’s too sensitive. I had several moments where I was choosing between two options and just because I hit the edge of one side a bit too much, the game decided for me. And not only that, my phone doesn’t have physical buttons anymore and quite often, I had the game deciding for me just because I swiped down to see the time or see my latest notification.

There is also no “message log”. So, when you put the game down for a moment, you can’t see the history of what happened. And if I want to change the options during gameplay, though luck. The menu only appears when see the progress between kings.

This game has a lot of amazing elements like having to balance your four powers and the various twists and turns certain decisions and pathways can take, but it has various rough edges, I fell so mixed about this game. Maybe the PC version of the game is better, but I feel like this game works best as a mobile game. But, I feel like the mobile version just got a few rough edges. For example, I had to look up a way to reset your progress in the game. It turns out you have to hold two fingers on to have the reset screen to show up.

Yet, I advise people who enjoy adventure games to give this game a go. But be warned, the mobile version has some rough edges. But, for the low asking price of this game and the amount of content in this game, I can say for a fact there is a LOT worse out there. And I’m also so glad that this amazing concept got a few sequels as well… So, I know what to play next on my phone.

Score: 3.5/5

Wrapping up

I’m so glad that I gave this format another go and revived it. It allowed me to talk about three Android games I wanted to showcase on my blog, but I didn’t have the time for or wasn’t able to write a good enough “long” article about. I think I’ll revisit this format more often in the future and maybe also use it when I play small games on Steam, Switch or other platforms.

Then again, with my busy lifestyle and the backlog of games I still want to cover, I can’t promise how frequent I’ll write articles like these. I also challenged myself to be brief and short in this article and I had the urge to keep writing about these three games. So, if you want a more in-depth article about one of these games, let me know in the comments.

So, with that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

NekoJonez’s 11 YEARS of blogging

Has it already been 11 years? On in late 2010, I opened my Dutch personal blog. And now, that blog died due to personal reasons and I restarted my English blog on the 20th March 2013. So, I have been blogging for 8 years in English and quite close to 11 years if you count the years that I wrote articles in my native Dutch language. So, let’s have a retrospective look at my experiences as a writer, blogger and things like that. Let’s do a sort of celebration for this milestone that I reached with a simple hobby. But, first, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on this article. Yeah, the usual ending of my opening paragraph.

The usual word of thanks

So, the fact that I’m able to reach around 10.000 people each and every year is amazing. Sadly enough, my numbers have been taking a big dive lately. While I can explain that away with the fact that I’m writing less, but way better, articles… It still surprises me that I get around 10-20/visitors each day. I know, I shouldn’t focus on these numbers too much or else I’ll burn out but still, when I compare these numbers with numbers from other people in the community, I honestly feel humbled.

If only I had more time to write more articles, I think I would be able to have even better numbers. I would love to reach as much people as I can since the people I have met over the years, is just mind-blowing. I have created friendships that will last a lifetime. Furthermore, I’m not going to list any names here since I want to avoid that people are going to feel left out, but you know who you are. I love talking to you guys and girls.

Apart from meeting so much other content creators, I also love to interact with the people that read my blog. From indie developers to people who are looking for their next game to play. It warms my heart that people like what I write, and I have to say. From childhood, I always wanted a way to share my experiences and my life stories with others and writing this blog allowed to make that dream become a reality. Because I don’t always play the latest of the latest games and I don’t always play the “most popular” retro titles, I had a hard time connecting to other gamers.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading my articles. I’m still blown away by the support I get from others all the while I keep writing. As said earlier, I might be writing less than in the past, I still see a lot of people interacting with my blog and I always see huge spikes in my visitor graph whenever I publish an article. So, yeah. If only I was better at expressing gratitude and things like that without resorting to the classic speech is usually given by other content creators….

Highlights from the past 11 years

A typical question to ask when somebody celebrates a milestone like writing for over 11 years is what your favorite or most memorable moment was. To be quite honest, I don’t have just one moment. At first, I was planning to through each and every year and give you my best moment for each and every year, but even that wouldn’t do justice to the opportunities and highlights I had in the past 11 years.

This stats above, show how much I have written over the past 8 years while I’m writing this English blog. Let’s just say that I have written over 700.000 words in the past 560+ articles. That’s roughly 1250 words per article as an average. I write and publish around 40 – 75 articles each and every year. So, finding my favorite(s) moment(s) would be finding a needle in a haystack.

So, let me just name a few of them. A few memorable moments that stick out for me and that I currently remember from the top of my head. By all means, these just a few examples of moments I just adored and are the things that just make this blogging experience so memorable for me.

Reviewing Stella Glow

http://thebuttonsmashers.com/2016/08/game-review-stella-glow/

Back in 2016, I sometimes got requests from small developers to take a look at their game. But, when a good blogging friend of mine gave me the opportunity to write about a game I just played the demo off, and I was planning to go and pick up, I was over the moon.

When I started to play the game, I was amazed at the quality and polish that the game had. And not only that, the music and the atmosphere was so amazing. While it’s a shame to admit that I haven’t fully completed the game just yet since I didn’t grind certain characters enough to beat a certain fight, I’m actually planning to finish this game in the near future.

Now, you might notice that the link to the article isn’t on my blog. That’s because as a part of the agreement, I had to publish the article on his site. Which is only fair since he has provided me with the press key to this game. But, it felt so strange being able to write for a bigger company than all the indie developers.

Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing for indie developers. But, the fact that even bigger companies trust their brand in my hands and I only do this as a hobby is such a special feeling for me. So yeah, thank you, Stella Glow for providing me with such an amazing opportunity and the memories that I created while playing this game and talking about it with family and friends while I was preparing the review was such an amazing feeling.

Retrospective collabs

One of my favorite memories in the blogging world is the fact that I was able to do 3 retrospective collabs so far. The idea started when I wanted to write a retrospective series on a game series, but I didn’t want to do it alone. So, the idea of the hub article was born.

The moment of the birth of this idea was actually in a Discord call with another blogger who wanted to start out and was looking for idea’s and cross promotion. Sadly enough, I didn’t hear from that blogger when I was working on the first hub article… But, I felt that the idea had so much potential, I kept the collab running. The end result was:

Not too long after that, The Well Red Mage, who was one of the writers for this collab started his own collab in the same style for the Final Fantasy series. He also did one for the Mario series. In the meantime, I did two other ones.

All three collabs have their own unique stories and memories attached to it. From being able to work with an actual journalist, YouTubers, being promoted by YouTubers, celebrating the anniversary of the series together and writing about the latest recently released game in the series, it’s just magical. I love doing these collab, but they are so extremely draining and demanding to do. But, the rewarding feeling you get when everything comes together, and you see everything get published and launch at the same time… And then seeing the community read and interact with the whole collab, it’s so lovely. And yes, here is a little hint… I may be thinking about the next game series to give it the hub retrospective look… Keep an eye on my blog and such if you want to be part of it.

And while I have only chosen two moments, I can keep listing a lot more amazing moments. From writing an article for HP, The Creative Christmas collab in 2017, those two weeks in 2017 where I wrote 2 articles every day for two weeks(!), the time I interviewed an internet friend who turned game dev, the time that a quote of mine made it on the Steam store page, being called the best tech blog in 2017 and being a part of the list of best gaming blogs on the Internet… those are just a few examples of my amazing ride. And yeah, I just noticed that 2017 was an amazing year for my blog, but strangely enough, it’s the year after that I got the biggest spike in visitors and such. Strange how things go.

Award questions

You know what would be fun as well? Let’s take a look back some previous award question posts I have written and let’s see if some of my answers would change today. How much have I changed in the past years? Let’s find out together. Meanwhile, it’s a fun trip through memory lane taking a look back at the various bloggers who think it’s worth it to follow and read my work.

What’s your earliest gaming memory?

So, my answer isn’t going to change from what I have said in that article. Rather, I’m going to add to the story. It’s true that the earliest gaming memories are playing Pac-Man on the Gameboy. But, one of my earliest gaming memories is also playing Tarzan on my parent’s computer. I still remember that when they bought their first computer, they called me into the office but instead of explaining me on how to properly use the computer, my mom took out a copied version of the PC game Tarzan. I remember playing it all afternoon and bragging to my mom how far I had gotten.

The copied version of the game came from one of her co-workers. I was so sad when the copy stopped working, I had one goal, buy my own copy. And, I’m proud to admit that I took my bike and rode to the toystore and bought a copy for myself. And yes, as a proud game collector, I still have that copy in my collection. It’s one of the games that will never ever leave my collection when I have anything to say about it.

Do you have a games room / corner?

Now, it might only be 4 years since that article, but I have to say, a lot changed. Not only do I live on my own but my games room/corner changed quite a lot. Currently, my retro systems and my computer is in my office and my more modern systems are in my living room. Compared to the pictures, I gained a NES and a Switch in terms of consoles and a few more retro game computers.

Of course, I also gained quite a lot of games to add to my collection. I don’t dare to count the size of my collection at the moment but I estimate that my game collection is nearing the 5K games mark. I really should start counting them one day. I feel like a project is coming up for this summer.

Oh, and if you want to see pictures of my current game room… Well, here are two.

Light theme, or dark theme?

To be honest, for writing I prefer my light theme. It reminds me more of writing on a piece of paper and I feel like I have a bit more control. For reading, I tend to switch between the two.

Now, most of the apps I use on my phone and the default setting on my computer is in dark mode. I just prefer those apps that way. But, I don’t mind interacting with a light theme. A big example is that I have my Microsoft Teams set in dark mode but when I help teachers or students to solve problems with Teams, I notice that the majority has still light mode on.

Now, my answer if I should choose a light or dark theme hasn’t changed… I rather prefer a gray/silver-ish theme since that’s my favorite color. The “bland” yet special color that can support so much while not standing out at all and being easy on the eyes… Yes please. (At least, that’s my opinion on the color.)

If a game based on your life was made, what would be the genre and title?

This is one answer that’s going to change completely. When I was writing that article, I was playing a ton of RPG’s, so it doesn’t surprise me. Also, action…? Well, let me put this into context. There are a lot of things that happen in my life, but it isn’t THAT eventful that you would say it’s an action game.

Lately, I feel that my life is more in the style of a visual novel/adventure game. One where an interesting story is told through the eyes of an IT-admin in an art school who has a lot of experiences in terms of having a ton of different experiences due to being involved in a theater group, speedrunning…

Then again, maybe a simulation like the Sims would fit my life as well. But then again, I think that would fit almost everybody’s life wouldn’t it? But, I think that if you would base a character on me, I think I would be either that helpful companion who helps to solve the problems or something along those lines.

What things do you do to relax?

So, I still love to explore cities but lately, I’m more into speedrunning one of my favorite childhood games. Also, I’m watching less anime lately. I don’t know why exactly, but lately I do enjoy reading more on the SPC-wiki. I just love the idea of a whole universe being created from everybody who wants to contribute to the universe. Also, the stories that are created can be so interesting and unique they can be their own film/movie or have such a deep meaning.

On top of that, I also quite enjoy contributing to open source projects. Especially WordPress lately. I’m not that good of a coder, so I currently help in translating plugins and themes into Dutch and Flemish.

Apart from that, I still enjoy playing games, watching anime/YouTube and writing. Something I also enjoy is going to theater. Which wouldn’t be a surprise if you knew that I also love acting on stage and/or being a part of the technical crew while preforming a play.

So, one of the biggest projects I did this school year was completely revamping my school’s website. I’m quite proud of it, but I’m not done revamping it. But, I have to admit that doing this project also made me discover that I also enjoy creating websites quite a lot. So, yeah…

Wrapping up time

I was planning to do something special last year with my 10 years of blogging milestone but my workload with my job and other personal things stopped me from writing something special. Now, a lot of my workload has to do with me being unable to be unproductive. I always want to do something to work on something. I think that’s just a curse of being a creator. My mind never shuts down. I always think about the next story/article to write or what I can do to help out others.

Like I said in the article I wrote in 2014, I sometimes have trouble enjoying certain things like games. Since I always think about: “How can I turn this into an enjoyable article?”. It’s not that I’m not having fun tho. I’m having quite a lot of fun. Yet, I’m so glad that I decided to listen a bit more to my mental health instead of pushing myself into writing each and every week. Sometimes it’s okay to skip a week (or two), as long as I keep the quality of my articles up.

Looking back to my first article and the articles I write today, I am quite amazed at the progression I made. When I read my older articles, I feel they are incomplete, and I want to edit them to make them more complete. But, I’m not going to. This blog is also sort of my portfolio, and it’s my life’s journey. And I’m so happy that I can share it with you all. It’s a journey that I love going on.

It might be extremely cliché, but I can’t thank everybody enough who helped me, supported me and been there for me in the past 11 years. But, I’m so grateful for all my readers and people who went into interaction with my articles. If you decided to buy a certain game because of me, I hope you enjoyed your time with it. Feel free to let me know if you did.

I don’t know what the future will bring for me and my blog. But you can be sure that I’m going to keep writing. At the moment, I don’t have any reason to stop doing this enjoyable hobby. And if you want to see your game or a certain game reviewed on this blog, feel free to reach out to me via my contact page. The best way to follow me is following my Twitter, since I’m that sort of person who can only maintain a few social media channels and Twitter is the easiest for me to share short updates.

And with that, I’m going to close off this ramble article. It might have been all over the place, but I hope you enjoyed reading it and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

First Impression: There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension (Switch) ~ Ceci n’est pas un article.

ThereisnogameWikipedia entryNintendo.com micrositeDeveloper site

There is no game here, so there is no article here. I have been searching everywhere in this game and I have found nothing. So, why am I writing about this then? Because I have no other game to write about, and I still want to write an article since it’s one of my biggest hobbies? Well, who knows. I can’t say, since there isn’t an expanded version of a game jam here. Maybe that section in the latest Nintendo Indie World was a lie. … Okay, I don’t think he is looking anymore. I think it’s time to let you in on a little secret. … There might be a game here. Shall we take a look at it? Come on, you and me. Let’s talk about this secret game while you sneakily go to the comment section after reading this article and tell me what you think about this game and/or the content of this article.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe

fileD8CAV347I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up the gag from the introduction paragraph through the whole article before it gets extremely stale and boring to read. No really, it might not be enjoyable at all. There would be loads of things that’ll be way more enjoyable to do. Like, read one of my articles or play a game. 

But, since you are still here, I think you want to poke around in the wrong dimension that’s part of the title right? Alright then, reader. In this game, you take on the role of “the user”. Explaining how your adventure gets started would spoil various gags that this game pulls with you and since I try to keep my content as spoiler free as possible, it gets quite tricky. 

The different chapters of this game can be a standalone episode in a series, but it still has an overarching plot. It tells a story about a certain game program that is convincing you that there is no game. But, some strange glitch is haunting him and messing things up for him, so maybe it’s time to set things right. 

You and the game program travel through the various wrong dimensions on your way home to set things right while having amazing humorous adventures throughout various game genres that poke fun at various elements of that genre. The amount of the sneaky references and the clever use in the gameplay and puzzles of this game is just amazing. 

When I said “various game genres”, you might think that this game has a lot of different gameplay styles. Well, this game is a point-and-click adventure. So, while you might be a Zelda-style adventure game dimension, you have to interact with the game via the modern point-and-click controls. But, more about the gameplay later. 

First, let’s talk about our Russian(?) host. Your game program friend is fully voice acted. The voice work has been done by Pascal Cammisotto, who is actually the French developer of this game. While the game is translated in various other languages, the voice acting is stays in English, and it’s glorious. The voice acting in this game is extremely well done and adds even more charm to the game, which may or may not be there.

The pacing of this story is walking on the fine line of going a tad bit too fast and just fast enough. I felt that some sections of this “fictional” game that I have played so far went over a bit too quickly, but I also think that if they dragged on for a bit longer they might overstay their welcome. In other words, in most places the pacing hits the right beats but in some cases, I found that a section was over a bit too fast.

“User, please solve that.”

20200807202822_1So, in this game you have to interact with the world in various unique ways via your usual point-and-click style gameplay. You find various items that can aid you on your quest. Your inventory is at the bottom of the screen, and you can place it in the order you like. If two objects might be able to interact, they get a white outline around them. 

Not that this information matters, since I’m not talking about a game that’s here on Switch, but I felt that this game controls better when being played on the touch screen of your Switch compared to the docked controls. I’m not saying that the controls while docked don’t work, but you need to quickly interact with some actions, and I was able to solve most of the puzzles more easy using the touch controls. 

The controls were quite easy to get a hang of. It didn’t take long before I was able to tackle the amazing puzzles in this game. The difficulty balance in this game gets a thumbs up from me. I really loved to solve the puzzles in this game and the mechanics and gags used to solve the puzzles in this game make the game being a love letter to our hobby even better. 

Also, when you are stuck in a certain section, the hint system gets a chef’s kiss. A ten out of ten. Whenever you click the “Help” button, you can unlock a hint. In most cases, you have to unlock another hint before you can unlock the solution. The only penalty you get from using the hint system is a small “boo” shout that the game gives you. But, I highly advise you to not use the hint system. The solution and out-of-the-box thinking you have to do is so much more enjoyable when you solve it without a hint. It’s a shame, since the hint system is one of the best I have seen in point-and-click games so far. 

The biggest shame of this game is that this game is extremely short. This game can be beaten in 5 to 8 hours. So, I currently played this game for 3 hours, so that means I’m somewhat over half way to beat this game. I always feel quite conflicted about these short games. At one hand, some of these are a blast to play through and provide a lot of unique experiences but on the other hand… I always wanted from the game. 

Nostalgic

tng-fp__xlI think we are currently in the time period where people who grew up with the same sort of games then I did are currently in the indie game development scene. The various game spoofs that this game visits feel so extremely nostalgic all the while that this game is putting its own unique spin on them. For example, the Zelda-style spoof reminds me so much of playing the Minish Cap for the first time. And the first spoof reminds me so much of playing old school point-and-click games from Humongous Entertainment or LucasArts.

The game’s visual presentation pulls you in so much that it makes the game more addictive to play for me. It blends the visual style of its own and the games it’s spoofing so well I have a hard time telling which is which sometimes. I can only praise the artist who works on the visual presentation and the animations since you did an amazing job. 

And as usual, after talking about the visual presentation… I talk about the music and sound effects. And just like the visual presentation, I have no complaints about those either. It’s an amazing blend between modern and retro styled sound effects. I could be an annoying nitpicker and say that it’s an extremely minor shame that the whole soundtrack of this game is orchestrated but then again, that’s extremely impressive for such a small indie game that only costs $13.

So far, I have been praising this game to the moon and back. It’s almost that this game doesn’t have any negatives apart from its short length. The save system works fine, the UI is excellent… I feel that this game is polished and play tested quite a lot before it got released.   

The biggest negative I can say is that this game has some jokes that might go unnoticed or fall flat for younger gamers or people who just get into gaming. I honestly don’t think that the story is going to be so strong if you played it with people who aren’t that into video games. But, if you are well versed into games, I think that this game’s humor and charm will draw you in like it did with me.

Now, this game falls into the trap of being a short point-and-click game. If you want to enjoy this game to its full potential, I highly recommend that you read as little about the game as possible since the fewer you know about the game the better. Otherwise, the charm and humor will hit less hard and that’s a lot of what makes this game so addictive and fun to play. 

The second trap of the point-and-click genre is that the replay value is extremely low. While you might enjoy your 2nd or 3rd playthrough, you will know most of the gags and story beats in this game which makes a 2nd playthrough way less enjoyable. Unless you are doing a speedrun of this game of course. 

So, I think I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s high time for the conclusion I sort of already gave earlier in this article. If you are into video games and enjoy a point-and-click adventure game, I think that this short game is one you shouldn’t sleep on. While the game works a lot better with touch controls compared to controlling it with the joy cons or a pro controller, I don’t think that it would hinder your experience too much in this game. 

Now, if you aren’t into video games, I would still recommend this game to you, but I have to warn you that a lot of the gags and spoofs in this game will go over your head. The strength of the story only shines when you know a little about computers and games. Then the beautiful game world and the nice audiovisual design will draw you in just like it does it with me. 

If I have to describe my feelings and thoughts about this game in a short paragraph I have to say that this game is a humorous point-and-click adventure that takes you through a nostalgic trip throughout (recent) gaming history that uses it’s gags extremely well. The charm of the story, settings, visual and audiovisual presentation quite well to deliver a short but extremely enjoyable adventure that makes me keep an eye on the developer of this game about what he is going to do next.

So, it’s high time to wrap up this article so I can start finishing this game. I want to thank you a lot for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. Oh, so there was a game there… Should I start reviewing it?

First Impression: Blue Dragon (XBOX360) ~ Helpful Shadows

BlueDragonWikipedia entry

It has been quite some time since I have written an article about a game on the XBOX360. Which is quite surprising to me, since I bought my XBOX360 from an old classmate of mine three-ish years ago. Anyways, I’m glad that I bought the system since when I moved in September of last year, I had a lot of issues with getting my internet up and running, so it was my DVD player. Besides that, I kept playing games on it since it was on anyways. Anyways, earlier this month I felt like browsing the XBOX360 Online store and I wanted to play an RPG. When I found Blue Dragon, a game I thought released only on Nintendo DS, was actually a series that started on the XBOX. I didn’t hesitate and bought the game for 20€. And, because you guys and girls voted for it on my Twitter, here we are. I’m going to talk about my first impressions of this game after playing this game for about 2-ish hours. Let’s dive right into this while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Helpful shadows

Blue-Dragon-XBOX-360In this game, you take on the role of Shu, Jiro and Kiuke. These three young kids live in a village that gets attacked yearly by a mysterious landshark. This landshark not only destroys almost the whole village but also caused several victims. During one attack, these three children want revenge on the landshark and try to trap and fight it. This doesn’t turn out so well and they get dragged away by the landshark. 

After a small exploration of the resting place of the landshark, they discover that the landshark is being controlled by somebody else who is taking great pleasure in seeing the destruction and panic. Our three heroes are able to escape this evil person but they also eat a special light orb which transforms their shadows into beats that make them not only stronger but also give them magic abilities. 

Now, allow me to be blunt and direct for a moment. If you expect a deep and rich story from this RPG, I’m afraid to say that you are barking up the wrong tree. The writing and the pacing is perfect for an children anime series. But, to be honest, I think it fits the game well. If the writers would have written a more grim plot with the whole “your shadow gives you special powers” plot you would either go more in the lines of a Persona game or risking that the story becomes too silly to be taken seriously. 

Yet, on the other hand, this does put the game in a weird position for me. When I play RPG games, I expect more from the story then a simple story for the young kids. Granted, I can enjoy the stories in a Pokémon game and those aren’t too special, but the story in this game is just a bit mediocre. If I have to pin point why I feel that the story in this game isn’t the best, I think I have to say that the story in this game is like a small rain puddle. 

A small rain puddle that is quite enjoyable to jump into and kick the water around but it’s just that. A puddle. It has no depth and it doesn’t provide you with more enjoyment than the surface layer. A perfect example is that the resolution of some missions can be skipped completely. In one of the first missions, you have to save the “bravest warrior” from a sheep village. After you have done so, the exit to the next section of the game is right there and you never see the “bravest sheep” return home and lie about him defeating the monster that was trapping him. 

There is just not enough reaction on the situation by either the NPC’s or even the playable characters. When they get trapped in a big machine with no way out, there is no panic, no plan meeting… Nothing. Anything would be nice to provide more depth. 

The voice acting of this game is decent. I have heard better voice acting but I have also heard a lot worse. But the voice acting has the same problem compared to the shallow story. I feel that some scenes should have been voice acted or at least have some more sound effects to draw you in more but alas, we get silent textboxes. 

Missing: Depth

538221-blue-dragon-xbox-360-screenshot-marumaro-dashing-through-the

So, the story isn’t the strong suit of this game. Granted, I have only experienced a small part of the story and maybe the story improves quite a lot when I continue playing this game. Since, I’m seeing a lot of amazing mechanics and idea’s in this game that show the potential of this game. 

I really like how you can choose which character is the character you explore this game with. There are no real difference in terms of gameplay doing that, apart from one minor visual one. 

But then there are things that are quite flawed. A great example is the map system. Explain me why it’s possible to see the locations on the map in the teleport system but not on the world map? The world map in this game is the most useless map I have seen in a RPG. Apart from a location pointer and an icon where all teleport places are, you have no further information. You can’t even see area maps apart from the small compass in the bottom right corner. 

Thankfully, not everything is as broken as the global map. There are minor flaws in the game as well. They can be distracting but they didn’t ruin the game (too much) for me. For example, I think it’s hardcoded in the game that after cutscenes, every character joins Shu to continue the adventure… even when you selected another character to explore the world with. And after a small second, you transform into the correct character. 

Now, let’s talk about something good about this game for a change. I really enjoy the battle system. While I would have loved a better animation for the start of a battle, that nitpick doesn’t take away that the battle system has some unique and fun mechanics. Every enemy can be seen during exploration. So, there are no random battles in sight in this game. You can also bring up a circle in which you can choose which enemies to group together to attack in one battle. And while you’re exploring, weaker enemies will flee from you while stronger enemies try and chase you down for a while.

So, you can assign classes to your shadow. These classes dictate which spells and attacks you can use. This adds a layer of complexity to the game that I enjoy quite a lot. In addition to that, the battle system also has a timing mechanic. Unlike the Paper Mario games where you have to time a button press with the attack landing, in this game you have to hold the “A” button and if you land in the “critical” red zone, your spell or attack is more powerful BUT it might need a turn to charge up. The risk/reward system is excellent. 

Let’s power through

538217-blue-dragon-xbox-360-screenshot-activating-warp-devices-willFrom the previous section of the article, you might get the idea that this game is mediocre or isn’t worth your time. Now, that’s something I personally disagree with. I think this game is worth at least a try if you enjoy playing RPG or adventure games and you want to play something more lighthearted. 

Maybe the amazing visual presentation of this game might pull you in like it does with me. While some animations aren’t the best and a bit silly, like some walk cycles. The game looks well crafted and apart from some minor animation hiccups during cutscenes with the mouths not moving during talking, I don’t see too many major issues. The biggest issue is that some unskipable attack animations have some minor slowdown or tearing in them. But, that might be because I’m playing this game on a very new TV and maybe the high refresh rate and the big size might be overloading my poor XBOX360’s GPU buffer. 

The other big part of the presentation of this game is the audio. Apart from the game needing a bit more sound effects during cutscenes, I think the audio does a decent job of giving this game more character. Yet, I do have some complaints. I noticed that in some spots, the audio mixing wasn’t the greatest and the sound effects sounded too loud compared to the music that was playing. Speaking about the soundtrack, I enjoy most of it but there are some tracks with vocals. And these miss their mark completely in my opinion. Not only is it hard to understand what is actually being sung but combined with the sound effects of the battle, it gets even worse. Also, these songs don’t fit at all as a boss battle theme. 

Something I feel on the edge about is the fact that this game doesn’t have an autosave system. All the saving happens manually. So, don’t forget to save when you get the chance since a “Game Over” sends you back to the main menu where you have to load your save. Thankfully, this game isn’t too difficult but loosing progress is never fun.

And I’m not saying that this game is too easy. If you aren’t careful, you will loose and “Press A” to win doesn’t apply in this game. You will have to use some strategy or else you will be defeated. 

So, if you would ask me if I would recommend this game… I would say “Yes, but know that this game is not for everybody.”. While this game is quite enjoyable, I don’t think that this game aged quite well. While I heavily disagree with the 90+/100 scores that some reviewers gave this game, I don’t think this game is a bad game. 

While I haven’t gotten too far into the game and according to a small peak at the walkthrough, I currently finished 10% of the main story, I’m quite curious to see what this game is going to throw at me. So far, this game is quite enjoyable in my eyes despite it’s childish nature and the various flaws this game has. But, it puts a great battle system, enjoyable worlds and various other things to balance the flaws out. 

Normally, I wouldn’t score a game in a first impressions article but I’m going to do it because earlier I said that I disagree with the 90+ scores that this game is getting. I would give this game 70/100. This game has a lot of good elements but the lack of depth and polish in this game is something I would love to see improved in the sequels when I get around in playing them. 

And with that said, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article before I find another way to talk about the same point again in another way. There are a few things I’m leaving for the review when I have beaten this game but I have mentioned the most important things. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. 

Review: Pokémon Pinball Mini (Pokémon Mini)

By Merman (@merman1974)

Console: Pokémon mini

Developer: Jupiter

Publisher: Nintendo

Release dates: Japan – December 14th 2001, North America – November 16th 2001, PAL – Europe March 15th 2002 and Australia October 11th 2001

The Pokémon mini console was an unusual move from Nintendo. Going back to an LCD screen seemed strange in 2001, but the success of Game Freaks’ franchise led to a huge number of licensed products. These included a Tamagotchi style virtual pet and an electronic Pokédex.

Pokemon_mini_logo – The Pokémon mini logo

There were three varieties of Pokémon mini, matching the colour of its shell with three Pokémon from the later generations – these colours were: Wooper Blue, Chikorita Green, and Smoochum Purple. The hardware is particularly intriguing, as the smallest Nintendo console with interchangeable cartridges. The monochrome screen has a resolution of just 96×64 pixels, and it is powered by a 4MHz 8-bit CPU from Seiko. Squeezed into the case are an internal real-time clock, an infrared port for multiplayer gaming, a reed switch that detects when the player shakes the console, and a motor for rumble/force feedback. Memory includes 4K of RAM and the 4K BIOS, while each cartridge holds 512 kibibytes (just over half a megabyte). The console also has six save slots, which are shared between games. Power comes from a single AAA battery that can last up to 60 hours of gameplay. Officially the word mini was always shown in lower case, although many sources use that interchangeably with Mini.

  Pokémon_mini_Chikorita_GreenChikorita Green

 

 

Smoochum Purple Pokémon_mini_Smoochum_Purple

 

Pokémon_mini_Wooper_BlueWooper Blue

 

 

 

Internationally there were four titles available at launch. Pokémon Party mini is a mixture of mini-games, Pokémon Puzzle mini requires you to assemble pictures of Pokémon and Pokémon Zany Cards has four card games played with Pokémon cards. We are here to talk about the fourth launch game, Pokémon Pinball mini, but it is worth discussing how the poor sales of the initial games meant no further titles were sold in North America. Pokémon Tetris saw a release in Japan and Europe, but the last five official titles – Pokémon Puzzle Collection vol. 2, Pokémon Race mini, Pichu Bros. mini, Togepi’s Great Adventure and Pokémon Breeder mini – were only sold in Japan. Developers Jupiter were responsible for six of the ten released mini games, including Pinball mini – following on from their work on the original Pokémon Pinball game for Game Boy Color.

Pinball_mini_EN_boxart – The English box art for Pokémon Pinball mini

Pinball_mini_JP_boxart – The Japanese box art for Pokémon Pinball mini

Emulated versions of some Mini games appeared in the later GameCube title Pokémon Channel, and that allowed the console to be reverse engineered by hackers. Pikachu has to find the Pokémon mini under the bed and extra games are then purchased from the Shop ‘n Squirtle. It initially comes with a special bonus mini game known as Snorlax’s Lunch Time. Pokémon Pinball Petit was included in Pokémon Channel, with just ten Quest Mode levels from the original game and no way to save high scores. An emulator and homebrew titles are now available online for those who are unable to track down the elusive mini hardware. There was even a demo (SHizZLE, by Team Pokéme) entered into the Breakpoint “wild” demo competition in 2005. Fans have since created English translations of all the Japanese exclusive titles, making them playable in an emulator or via the Ditto mini flash cartridge (containing Flash memory, and thus allowing homebrew or translated cartridge files to be run on the original hardware itself).

Pokemon_Channel_US_boxart

US box artwork for Pokémon Channel (GameCube)

snorlaxs_lunch_time – Feed Snorlax to keep him awake in this Pokémon Channel mini-game.

So how does the Pinball mini game work? The game is split into three modes. Quest Mode has 70 levels that must be completed in order, Time Attack challenges you to complete one of ten selectable levels as fast as possible, and Score Attack has ten different levels to rack up as many points as possible. As with Time Attack, the player is free to play any of the ten Score Attack levels.

ppmini_title – The title screen initially just shows Diglett hitting the Pokéball.

ppmini_diglett_scoreattack – Diglett taking on a Score Attack level.

In each level, the player hits the Pokéball around with a Pokémon replacing the flipper usually found at the bottom of the table. The player starts off with Digglet, whose head pops up to hit the ball when A is pressed. Time it right and you get a faster-moving Power Shot. As you move through Quest Mode, there are three types of level. Fill Holes requires you to fill all the holes with Pokéballs as quickly as possible. These levels have a time limit, and this type of gameplay is the core of the ten Time Attack levels. High Score levels in Quest and Score Attack award one point for hitting the ball into a hole, and three points for a power shot. In Quest Mode these levels have a minimum score to complete them – also against the time limit. As well as holes, there are other features on the tables. Blocks can be broken by three hits (or one power shot), but hard blocks cannot be broken. Water will end the game, while the gravity changer (a black arrow) makes gravity act in that direction. Bumpers make the ball rebound, but the Out Hole will grab the ball and take time to release it. Ditto stops the ball bouncing and drops it slowly, while Pichu throws the ball in the direction it is facing (with the same strength it was hit).

ppmini_ditto – Ditto will affect the ball when hit.

ppmini_gravity – Hitting the Gravity arrow will make gravity start acting to the left.

ppmini_outhole – The Out Hole in the middle will hold onto the ball for a while.

ppmini_pichu – Naughty Pichu throws the ball around.

There are four Capture Levels in Quest Mode, allowing the player to unlock a different Pokémon. The Pokémon moves back and forth across the screen, starting with 3HP. Hitting the creature with the ball removes 1HP, while a power shot removes 3HP. Once the Pokémon is reduced to 0HP it faints, and needs one more hit with the ball to capture it. The player must then flip the Pokeball into the hole to complete the level, with its weight being heavier (making it slower to move) with the captured creature inside. If the player waits too long to hit a fainted creature, it revives with 1HP and must be hit again.

ppmini_pikachu – The player has unlocked Pikachu, who is a little unpredictable.

When a new Pokémon is unlocked, it can be used to replay any level – except its own capture level. Pikachu (#025) is unlocked by completing level 10, but the ball flies in a random direction when he hits it. Clefairy (#035) is the prize for passing level 20. Its psychic abilities allow you a small amount of control over the ball with the D-pad. The player must use Pikachu on level 11 and Clefairy on level 21 and is excluded from using Clefairy on some later levels. The slow-moving Wobbuffet (#202) is unlocked at level 30 but can send the ball flying further. The final Pokémon to be captured is Poliwag (#060) after level 40. Poliwag moves up faster than the others but is not as powerful (making power shots harder). One level filled with water requires the use of Poliwag, but only Diglett can be used on level 70. Completing the Quest Mode shows Poliwag and Clefairy alongside Diglett on the title screen.

ppmini_clefairy_blocks – Clefairy’s ability to influence the ball’s movement will help get rid of these Blocks.

As a pinball game the small size of the Pokémon mini screen is restrictive. But as a spin-off from the Pokémon games, it has a certain charm in the way it uses different creatures. It is a tough game to play through, thanks to the time and score limits. The cost of the console itself and the limited sales make tracking it down tough for collectors, so the recommendation would be to try the other two Pinball titles on Game Boy instead.

OVERALL: 6/10

This article is part of a big collaboration where various writers take a look at the Pokémon series in a retrospective way. Feel free to read more articles like these by visiting the hub article.

First Impressions: Lenna’s Inception (PC – Itch.io) ~ Glitching The Zelda Formula

Lennas-Inception-Free-DownloadItch.ioSteam

If you have read my blog in the past, you might know that I highly enjoy the Zelda series. It’s one of my favorite series ever created. My favorite games are the Oracle games because it’s one of the first Zelda games I played and I just feel in love with the formula, the world, the setting, the mechanics… Now, since A Link Between Worlds we didn’t got a new top down Zelda game. Thankfully, indie game developers pick up that banner and create new games heavily inspired by the formula. Today, I want to talk about Lenna’s Inception, a game I played through the Itch.io page of the developers. Is it any good, does it scratch my Zelda itch or should we skip this game and look at another game? Let’s find out while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: I have played multiple versions of this game but I played v1.1.5 for this article.

Glitching the Zelda formula

6EtbsPIn this game, you take control of Lenna. As long as you don’t rename her that is. Lenna is a teacher at a local school and as soon as she steps out, she notices that her whole school is glitched out and you are unable to enter it. So, it doesn’t take long before you meet Link, I mean Lance. He is the actual hero in the story and Lenna guides him towards the first dungeon to help Lenna save her students. 

Now, as you would expect, Lance meets a terrible fate and actually dies. Now, it’s up to Lenna to save the world before it corrupts even more. During the story you meet several characters and interact with the world. The writing contains a whole load of puns and references to other games and pop-culture. It’s quite enjoyable. 

Something I want to praise the developers for is that they managed to up the replay value in a lot of unique and interesting ways. First of all, let me tell you that there are a lot of gameplay modes besides the story mode. There are various challenge modes with leaderboards that actually invite speedrunners to make them categories. 

On top of that, there is a sort of “Spoiler Log” in the story mode. I haven’t beaten the game, so I don’t know what it exactly is, but I have seen in the changelog for v1.1 that it has to do with speedrunning the story mode.

Speedrunning this game will be quite tricky, since this game world is completely randomized. You can set a seed to know where you need to go, but the lay-out of the land and the locations of various things are random in every save file. So that means that no playthroughs are exactly the same. 

I have to say that I rather enjoyed the story and the setting of this game. There are various 4th wall breaks and self referential humor which makes the story much more enjoyable. Too bad that one playthrough of this game is rather short, if you know what you are doing, you can beat this game in 4-ish hours. Add 10 hours on top if you want to complete everything. But, again, it’s not a bad thing that this game is short since the randomly generated content makes this game so replayable. I’m quite sure that after I have beaten this game, I’ll be playing this game again during holiday breaks.

Throwback Styling

UntitledThis game makes it’s throwback to the old school top down Zelda-style complete with a 8-bit and 32-bit visual style. You can choose in the main menu if you want to use the 8-bit or 32-bit visuals for the game. In most of my playthrough, I have used the 32-bit style since I felt that style looked better. But, for this article, I booted up the 8-bit style and I was blown away. 

Seriously, it looks as good as the 32-bit style. Obviously, the 32-bit style has more details and looks better by modern standards, but the 8-bit visual style took me back to the days that I played the port of the original Zelda game on my Gameboy Advance. 

The visuals of this game are really polished, apart from one thing I don’t have any complaints. The visuals really give an amazing atmosphere and add to the story and the setting of the game. It really sells a fantasy world that is alive and that the main character of the game is actually living in it. 

Now, the lay-out of the land depends on your seed, which is nicely displayed in the load menu. I choose “Arpegi” as my seed, because why not? It’s sort of my brand name after all. When I checked out the Discord of the game, I noticed that there were snowy area’s that looked cool and I have them barely in my seed. So, I think I’m going to replay the game with another seed to try and see new things. 

The visual presentation has one flaw and that’s that the glitch effect can be a trigger for people who are epileptic. It does add a lot to the story and setting of the game but I think they might trigger some people. Something that can also trigger people are the flashing screens when the game is doing it’s randomizing magic. You can change this through the options menu, but I think you should get a warning screen to turn these off before they happen. This might be in the game, but I’m not 100% sure since I can’t remember and I don’t want to delete my save files to test it.

Yes, save files! There are multiple save slots. Well, this is partially true. You can have multiple runs but you have one save file per run. Also, this game doesn’t use an autosave! You have to save manually. So, don’t forget to save whenever you have beaten a dungeon or got a heartpiece.  

A game can have amazing visual presentation but what is the presentation of a game without it’s sound effects and music? This game delivers an amazing soundtrack and amazing sound work. While I would have loved a bit more ambient sound effects, the music is still amazing. Oh, the attention to detail in this game is top notch as well. I mean, this game even makes the soundtrack and sound effects 8-bit if you use the 8-bit visual style. 

Exploration distraction

dfgdfIf I didn’t get distracted by all the side quests you can do, I think I might have beaten this game for the first time. Yet, in this game there are several optional side quests that you can do to upgrade your gear, increase your health and even complete a whole trading sequence. 

In terms of gameplay, this game works the exact same as a top down Zelda game. You have to complete dungeons gather new items and unlock more of the story. Some mechanics are more in-depth than in the Zelda games. For example, there are way more potions and tunics in this game than in any Zelda game. In addition to that, you can even use these potions on enemies. I discovered that by accidentally shooting a healing potion into one of the dungeon bosses. 

Unlike Zelda, you can have a companion in this game. While a NPC attacking nearby enemies can be quite helpful, I found that they sometimes got stuck in dungeons on doors and they don’t help you in boss fights. Each companion NPC has it’s own health bar that’s displayed in green above your health bar. When an NPC picks up a heart, you and the NPC get healed. 

I’m not going to reveal the items you can gather in this game since it’s part a spoiler and I want to leave that a surprise to you if you decide to play this game. But, I do highly advise you to learn all the mechanics of the items since they can be helpful. Overall, the difficulty of this game isn’t that high but that might also be seed-related, I don’t know. But, I rarely had trouble with the story mode. I also never had to use a guide to progress in this game. But, I do have to say that some puzzles especially in the castle are expertly crafted and quiz you on the possible uses of certain items. 

To be quite honest, I have a lot of trouble finding negatives about this game. The only negative I could say is that the default keyboard controls are a bit awkward to use. But hey, nothing that changing the keyboard bindings can’t fix. But, then I tried out my controller on this game and I felt that the game worked even better. I could nitpick and say that I find it a bit disappointing that the options menu doesn’t have an overview of the controller controls but hey, that’s nitpicking. 

Something that I didn’t saw coming is that this game has a local multiplayer option. Yes, you can play through this adventure with a friend. Sadly enough, only local play. If you play through this game with a friend, know that it’s best with a keyboard / controller combo and that only the “non-shadow” player can move the screen. Yes, this game works with screens that can scroll like the old school Zelda games. 

While I was doing research about this game, I learned in the press kit that the developers of this game worked on titles like Stardew Valley, Starbound and WarGroove. No wonder that the quality of this game is so high. This game has been created by veterans in the indie game industry. 

So, overall, what do I think about this game? I think that this game is one that every adventure game fan/Zelda fan/indie game fan should play. This game is only 8€ and the game is worth every cent. I would even pay more, to be honest. The only things I didn’t like where the short length of the game and the default keyboard controls. But both can be solved easily. The issue with the awkward keyboard controls was easily solved by rebinding then and the short length is solved by a randomly generated adventure that differs from playthrough to playthrough. 

Visually, this game looks and sounds amazing. It also changes depending on the visual style you choose. The game does scratch that top down Zelda itch. I wanted to play more game in that style and this game delivers that in spades. I even have a hard time finding mistakes in this game. So, Lenna. Shall we go on another epic adventure and save the world again?

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. Also, happy first birthday to the game. The game has been released for over a year now. 

NekoJonez’s Favorite Gaming Music -SPECIAL- ~ It’s Podcast Time

It has been quite some time since I wrote about my favorite music tracks in video games. So far, I have written 24 articles in this series. Today I have a special spin-off article in this series. I was a guest on the “Untitled Game Music Podcast” by Alexander Sigsworth. Today it’s finally live and to give it some publicity since this series is amazing and I highly recommend that you all listen to it, this week’s article is simply going to be an embedded version of the podcast. Please enjoy and feel free to leave a comment here or on Alexander’s channel!

The 5th Retrospective Blogger / Creator collab is going to be about.. (Writer/YT’er call-out!)

In 2017, I came up with the idea of doing a retrospective in a special way. I gathered several writers and I created the “The Legend Of Zelda Retrospective – A Bloggers Journey“. The year after that, in 2018, one of the writers of Zelda retrospective took on another series in the same style. That series was Final Fantasy and that was bundled in the “Final Fantasy: A Crystal Compendium“. Later that year, it was my turn again. So I gathered writers for a series near and dear to my heart and that’s the Tomb Raider series. So, “Tomb Raider – Writer’s Raid” was born. Oh, and in 2019 the madlad Well Red Mage did another one… about, all. the. Mario. Games. Yes, including spin-offs. The “Super Mario Multiverse: Compilation” is the 4th one in this style. And now, it’s time for the announcement of the 5th one. 

How does this retrospective works?

How does this retrospective work? Well, the idea is quite simple. The first thing that happens is that somebody decides on a series to take a look at and lists all the games that should be included in the collab. In that case, the organizer knows how many writers are needed to at least look at the main games and how many additional writers are needed for the spin-offs. 

Depending on the amount of writers, the idea of this collab is that each writer takes as few games to write about as possible. The writer publishes their piece on their own blog/channel/page… Unless they don’t have one, then the organizer looks for a place to publish it. Each piece links back to the hub article that’s published on the organizer’s blog/channel/page. 

The hub and each article are published at the same time. That way, you can go to the hub article and read about your favorite game or about the game you always wanted to know about. And there are a few benefits as well. The creator community comes closer together and meets the fellow creators and opens doors for future collaborations. And for the readers, you might discover new content creators to follow and enjoy. 

Now, what are these articles about? Well, when I organize these collabs I always give the full freedom to the writers to write a piece to their liking. The only “rules” I have is that the article links back to the hub article, uses the art piece made for the collab and that it’s at least 1,000 words long. The article can be a review, a personal story about the game, the development history, interesting facts about the title, comparison between original & remake… As long as it focuses on the chosen title by the content creator, it’s all fine. 

The freedom I give to the writers means that it’s not a retrospective by definition. Since not every article will talk about the development history of the series. This isn’t a bad thing in my eyes, since the main idea of the retrospective is to promote other writers and celebrate a certain series and talk about personal stories and create something unique. My end goal is to create a group of friends that works together to create this celebration of this series. 

This seems like a long and complicated explanation but if you take a look at the finished works, I think it paints a clear picture of the end product. It’s up to the organizer to choose the publish date for each & every article and which writer gets which game. I personally advise against two or more writers taking the same game, but if you want to do it differently in your collab, I’m not stopping you… It’s your collab after all. 

The tease

So, a few days ago, I put out a tease that I was doing one of these collabs again. Yet, I kept the series a secret. The reason for that is because I recorded a podcast together with Alex Sigsworth about gaming music. At the end of the recording, I teased that I was in the final planning stages of this sort of collab but I refused to reveal the subject. 

At first, he was going to be able to publish it today but sadly some editing issues popped up and he has to delay it to next week Sunday. I wanted to avoid him uploading a podcast where I tell that this collab is still a secret while I fully reveal it later before he uploaded it. 

Yet, we came both to an agreement that it’s fine for me to reveal the series while he will see what he can do in editing. I’m going to leave that fully onto him. So, it’s possible that he cuts everything out about that or he puts in a disclaimer that it’s recorded before this reveal… It’s all fine in my book. But yeah, I wanted to tell this “behind the scenes” story in case if there is some misunderstanding when the podcast does goes live. I’m quite looking forward to the podcast since his previous ones were amazing and it was a lot of fun to record with him. 

The reveal and such

A few writers jumped in blind already. So far: Andrew Fisher, Eric Fellner, TriformTrinity and Gaming Omnivore signed up. That you so much for that. Now, of course with 5 writers we aren’t going to be able to tackle a series that’s extremely close to a lot of childhood’s hearts… I want to catch more writers for this collab. I want to catch ’em all to have enough writers for this journey/adventure… And if it hasn’t clicked yet… It’s going to be about:

Pokemon-logo

Yes! It’s going to be about Pokémon! 

So, if you want to help out in this collab, what do you have to do and have?

I would love it if you have your own blog or YouTube channel. I wouldn’t mind publishing one or two articles if you don’t have your own space but I would prefer it if you have your own space. 

If you are interested, feel free to contact me over mail, Twitter or Discord. (My handle is NekoJonez#5471). Give me a link to your own site/page and if everything checks out, I add you to the group. 

For this collab, all the articles will be in English. So, if you decide to write an article or make a video, it should be in understandably English. It doesn’t need to be in perfect English, but remember that it’s going to be a sort of “ad” for your blog/channel to possibly interest new readers/watchers. 

At the moment, there is no real name or publishing date planned for this project. When I have enough content creators, I’ll look for a date and time when everything can be published. We will look for a date that works for almost everybody. 

Keep in mind that I’m trying to get as many content creators as possible. So, that means that I’m not going to allow content creators picking too many games. And also, when a game is taken by a content creator, it’s taken by that content creator. If you want to trade, it should be agreed upon with both content creators and me. 

When you want to write an article, it has to be at least 1,000 words. If you want to create a video, I expect a video that’s at least 5-10 minutes long. 

If you want to read/watch the final product, well keep a look out on my blog and Twitter. More information will appear on there. But for now, I’m quite interested in who is going to sign up for this collab and I’m rather curious for the end result. So, who is going to join us on this adventure? 

With that said, thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Accident (PC – Steam) ~ Let us Learn About Saving Lives

Steam store

For those who do not know yet, I work as an IT Admin in a big art high school (secondary school) in Belgium. Also, I have a lot of games in my PC collection that are part of the “edutainment” genre of games. So, when Duality Games offered me a free press copy of their newly released “Accident” game, I was extremely interested. As usual, the developer asked me to give my full 100% honest opinion, so that is what you are going to get in this article. So yeah, does this game hold up while being reviewed by somebody who is working in the education sector for 7 years now? Let us find out and let us find out if it is fun to play as well as a game. Personally, I want to find something out as well from you, the reader. I want to find out what your thoughts and opinions are on the game and/or the content of this article so feel free to leave them in the comment section down below.

Reviewed version: Build 1.05

Let us Learn About Saving Lives

In this game, you play a nameless person who is working for a nameless company that started a new project called “Roadside Heroes”. In this VR-experience, you are set in the shoes of a person who encountered a traffic accident and it’s to you to make sure that the people in the accident make it out alive.

In terms of story, this game is a bit lacking. Since it’s unclear if you are working for a game company who is working on a VR-game about traffic accidents or if you are a part of your police training or if it’s for the emergency workers or if it’s part of a recreation program for reports and journalists… It is all a bit vague. On one hand, this can help to insert yourself in the game and make the story whatever you want but on the other hand, I felt a bit disconnected from the game since the story didn’t immerse me. (Now, I am going to completely ignore the fact that the store page gives more story since I mostly focus on these articles on what is told to the player through the game itself.)

While writing this article, I was asking myself: “Should this game even have a good story?”. And this is a tricky question to answer. For reasons I will explain later, this game can be a perfect teaching tool to help people what to do in the event of a traffic accident. It can also be a great “shock game” for people who feel that traffic laws are only a suggestion. So yeah, in that case, the fact that this game does not have a too in-depth story is a good thing since it does not get in the way of the actual intention of the game.

Most of the story is being told through your phone on your desk. After completing a case, you get a text from Mark telling about the next case. A neat detail in this game is that the clock on the mobile phone matches the real-time of the system clock.

In terms of writing, this game is decent even for a “lacking story” (which again, is not a negative for this game for the reason I explained earlier). There is some minor voice acting and voice work but most of it is nothing special to write home about.

So, this game starts off with a tutorial case. In this case, you learn the basic operations and mechanics in this game. It teaches you the controls and the steps you should take during the other cases. The tutorial is a little bit hand-holdy, but I noticed that this only happens during the tutorial since you are mostly on your own during the other cases. You do have objectives to complete, but it is up to you to find out how to complete these objectives with what you learned during the tutorial. So, let us dive right into some cases and start saving lives.

Teaching tool?

Each case starts the same way. You drive towards the site and you call the emergency services. The reason why I feel like this game can be a great teaching tool is that in various moments, a non-intrusive box appears on the top in the middle of your screen with the reason why you would do such actions in real life. For example: “Turning off the engine will stop the chance of engine fires in real life.” This can be very helpful advice and maybe save lives in the real world. This is not the only occasion that this happens.

This game can teach you a lot of things but there is no backend for the teachers. So, there is no way to see how your students reacted or if they had to redo certain cases or how they failed… Honestly, if this would be added to the game, it would make this game a very powerful teaching tool for those traffic lessons. But teachers can be creative and maybe this can be used in group work.

Before I ramble too much about that, let us put the focus on reviewing this game as a game. This game has been localized in different languages. You can play this game in English, French, Chinese, Polish, German, Spanish, and Russian. Since I know some French, I tried this game in French and I can tell you that the translation is done extremely well.

So, what do you have to do in this game? Well, you play the role of the guy or girl who was the first person that intervened when the accident happened. You must call the emergency services and provide first aid to the victims if needed. After that, you must piece together what happened and why the accident happened.

There is something unique about each case. In one case, you are knee-deep in the Russian winter, and in another case, you are in the extremely hot desert. If I have to give a genre to this game, I would say that it’s a puzzle game since you need to find out what the right steps are to finish the case with the least amount of deaths. Sadly enough, when you did not provide the correct aid and somebody died, it is game over.

On one hand, I dislike this mechanic and on the other hand, I don’t mind the mechanic too much since you can rewind time at any moment to redo a certain part in case you can do it better or faster. When you press “R”, you can rewind time to a previous decision point. The longer you press “R”, the further you go back.

Sadly enough, this means that there is only one way to complete each case. I silently hoped that this game would have worked with some sort of rating system where you could see if your actions saved the most lives or were the best way to handle the situation.

The whole package

If you look at the credits of this game, most of this game is created by Paul Dyvel apart from the music and the 3D art in this game. I must be honest, for the result is rather impressive. Let us first talk about the controls of this game. Thankfully, I was able to rebind them since this game does not recognize the keyboard layout “AZERTY” from Belgium and France… But that is a nitpick I have in almost every game.

Sadly enough, I do have to complain in terms of the controls. The first complaint has to do with putting out fires. I feel that this is a bit too pixel perfect. I had to redo the tutorial several times because I was unable to put out the fire. I honestly do not understand how to put out the fires since there is not enough feedback to the player in my opinion to tell them if they are actually putting out the fire or missing it completely.

The second complaint is about CPR. It took me a while to get into a correct rhythm for the chest compressions but when I learned that the heart rate graph is a nice indication to get in the correct rhythm, I didn’t have problems with chest compressions anymore. But here is the most annoying issue. It is the breathing mask and its controls. You must drag your mouse up and down. But that dragging up and down… Well, I know I have a small mousepad, but I almost must drag it all the way up my desk. It is a bit much. Also, as soon as you let go of dragging up, you must restart that breath… It is a bit too finicky. Apart from those two issues, the controls are quite responsive and easy to learn.  

Let us talk about the audio-visual design. In this game, the music is created by artists over at SoundStripe.com. It is extremely kind of the developers to list in the credits which artists were used. But I am unable to track the actual tracks down. It is a shame since I really enjoy listing to the tracks, and I would love to hear more from the artists. In terms of sound design, I think Paul did a very nice job. I have to say, I highly recommend that you play this game with a headset since it enhances the sound design and the music so much more.  

Something else I would like to talk about is the difficultly of this game. This game rides that fine line of being too easy and too challenging. Some scenarios are a bit too easy in my opinion. The scenario in America was over before I knew it while the two other unlocked scenarios were trickier to finish.

It is time now to talk about the visual presentation of this game. This game looks amazing for being created by such a small team. The models look extremely detailed and they are nicely animated. I love that there is some attention to detail like the chest slightly moving when you check if the victim is breathing or not.

It pains me to say that in some cases, I noticed that some corners were cut. For example, the textures for the clothes look less detailed than the other parts of the game. Another example is the car mirrors, it is quite clear that a less detailed version of the road is playing in it.

While this game has high attention to details, there are a few mistakes in terms of details that can break immersion. For example, the Wi-Fi symbol on the phones while there is no Wi-Fi access point nearby. Or the fact that the kilometers per hour do not make any sense on the dashboard of the car, I have even seen it go into the negatives several times during the Russian case. And let us not forget to mention that you can enter cars while holding victims without an issue.

Thankfully, these are small little things that are not a big deal breaker in terms of immersion and gameplay. Since overall, the atmosphere and the visual design of this game are good. The environments like quite real and apart from what I mentioned above, I barely have any complaints or suggestions to improve.

This brings me to the final part of this game I want to talk about. And that is the UI. There are a few things I would like to say about the UI. Overall, the UI is pretty good apart from several minor issues that give the game an unpolished feeling. Let me give you a few examples. Granted, some of these examples are visual issues combined with UI things.

Number 1: the “return” button can clash with the feedback button. This results in being able to return from the accident screen and opening the feedback screen.

Number 2: the feedback screen is strange. You do not get a message if your feedback has been sent or not and you have to select a thumbs up or down when you want to report a bug…

Number 3: you are unable to open the pause menu during the rewinding of time.

Number 4: there is no “reset to defaults” button in the video settings of the options menu.

Number 5: the credits text is a bit hard to read. Speaking about the credits, they do not wrap. So, you must scroll up to restart them. And the strange thing is, that this does not always happen… Sometimes I can easily read the credits. I think it depends on the resolution.

Number 6: when you complete a case, the complete sticker appears over the name of the case. Making you unable to read it.

Number 7: you are unable to skip the intro to each case.

Number 8: you are unable to scroll in dropdown menus.

Number 9: you do not get an error message when you try and double-bind keys.

Number 10: you are unable to save during a case. You must do them in one sitting. But after finishing the case, it autosaves.

So, in general. What do I think about this game? Well, I honestly think that this is an enjoyable game and a nice concept. I think it would be a shame if this game does not get more cases or some sort of a sequel. Thankfully, there are high hopes for that! Since this game is in early access now. There is a demo version available but reading from the reviews, that’s less polished than the final product.

Would I recommend this game? Yes, I would. I think this game is a great adventure/puzzle game that also teaches you several things about car accidents. While the game takes some liberties on how to save people, the game always tells you when the game and reality conflicts. Also, each country works quite differently… But that is a whole other can of worms where I do not have the right knowledge and specifications to discuss. So let me say this, always call the emergency number when you come across an accident and ask what you should do and follow their instructions. 

So, I am quite curious about which improvements this game will get when it is in its final state. There are going to be more cases, tweaks, and improvements. If I have the time, I will write a follow-up article and review this game but for now, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. So, with that said: thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

 

First Impression: Cave Digger (PC – Steam) ~ Diggy Diggy Dig. (Non-VR Version)

capsule_616x353-1Steam store page

At least once every two or three months, I get an email from a developer who is asking me to review their VR-game. I always have to decline since I quite easily get migraine attacks from VR headsets and that’s one of the main reasons why I don’t play VR and don’t even own a VR headset. Now, why am I taking a look at a VR game then? Well, because the developers of “Cave Digger” made a non-VR version of this game and asked me to write an honest review about their game. So, a VR game that went “Non-VR”, is it any good, or should it remain a VR-game? Let’s dive right into the caves while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. (A press code was provided by the developer to write this article)

Diggy Diggy Dig

Cave-Digger-PC-Edition-3dIn this game, you play as a digger for the Frontier. For the first part of the game, the story doesn’t have a big hook to pull you in. But, the further you get into the game, the bigger the actual hook gets. If you want to enjoy most of the story in this game, I highly advise you to take the second radio station on your train since it describes the mystery a lot better. More on that later.

The goal in this game is that you not only uncover the mystery in this game but you also rebuild the city with the riches you find down in the caves. The more you explore the cave, the more information you get from hidden parts of the caves where a lot of jewels and riches reside that might help you earn more money and buy more upgrades. 

So, what is the mystery about? To stay as spoiler-free as I can, it’s about a hidden ancient civilization that might still be alive or too advanced for our human race. So, in the alternative western setting, you have to make a decision about what to do. I have been playing this game for 3 to 4 hours now and I haven’t met another human character… Physically that is. Most of the story is told over the radio. And I do have a complaint about it. 

The voice acting of the characters is good. It pulls you into the story without an issue. Now, English isn’t my native language and while I’m quite good at speaking it, sometimes I enjoy it when there are subtitles when a word or an expression is used that I don’t know. Sadly enough, this game doesn’t have subtitles. That’s a big bummer. 

It would have been great if there was some sort of archive of previous broadcasts. It would be a great help to those who took a (long) break while playing this game to catch up at what’s happening or to re-listen again in case you missed some parts. 

At first, I thought that this game was going to be quite linear, but that is far from the truth. Since this game has 9 different endings. Yes, the replay value of this game is quite high. Now, I haven’t encountered one of the endings so far but I’m quite curious to see them. So, when I have beaten the game and I write a follow-up review article, I’ll talk more in-depth about the endings. One thing I’m going to say already is that there funny and interesting easter eggs in this game that add a whole lot of charm to the game.

Two Ways Exploration

There are two ways you can explore, you can go to the elevator and the train. The main game is going on an adventure with your train. But, it’s easy to earn money by exploring with the elevator. You need to do both since some items to progress in the game without going into a crazy grinding mode is by buying the items at the elevator. 

The gameplay of the “two modes” are also quite different. In the elevator, you can have secret vault doors, but I don’t know how to interact with them. Most likely, I haven’t found the correct tool. You also get three different stages where you get 30 seconds to mine out resources or collect artifacts. After 30 seconds, you move on to the next section. I find that it’s quite easy to throw a stick of dynamite to the walls and use the vacuum glove to collect all the gems before they disappear into the edges of the elevator. Oh yes, that happens during the transition of the sections as well. 

So, let’s talk about train exploration. With this train, you go into the caves where you have various places you can go to get materials and explore. At first, the train goes extremely slowly but the further you upgrade your train, the faster you will be able to travel. Thankfully, there are warp points to certain landmarks so you don’t have to restart your whole travel each and every run. 

The tutorial only explains the basic controls. But the rest is up to you to actually figure out on your own. How you safely extract fossils and oil from the caves, it’s up to you to figure out. Even what the strange golden statues are doing on several dig sites.

Now, to collect the goodies, you have to throw them in the deposit box in your train. Before I got the glove, I found it extremely annoying to pick up the items one by one and deposit them. When I discovered that the glove allows you to suck up several items at once, I found that the game opens up a lot more. Also, it doesn’t take long before you meet your chest buddy who is also a deposit point and even eats up whole piles of gems and deposits them for you. 

Now, this lack of tutorial is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes the game a bit more challenging and it feels more rewarding when you figure something out and solve a puzzle. On the other hand, things like the fact that the glove is a vacuum don’t get explained and might turn some people off from this game… 

Something I can forgive is the fact that this game can be a bit repetitive. If you are interested in this game, I highly recommend that you play this game in short bursts since otherwise, this game might become quite boring. 

Something is wrong, I can feel it.

To be quite honest with you, I felt quite conflicted while writing this article. Since there is a lot that this game does right but the mistakes that this game makes are quite major. 

A great example of this is the visual presentation. Visually, this game looks amazing. The environments are detailed and feel life-like. For example, there is a volcano level in the elevator and you really feel that you are mining in an extremely hot place. In terms of animations, it’s good. Nothing too groundbreaking but good. 

Yet, there are several moments where I thought: “shouldn’t there be some visual to tell the player you are breaking this rock?” or “why does my drill always get so zoomed in when I walk very close to walls?”  or “why isn’t there a fuse animation on the dynamite?” … There are several more of these questions in the visual department, sadly enough. There isn’t enough feedback from the game to the player to communicate if they are hitting or missing a rock for example and this breaks the immersion fast. 

And it pains me to say that the smooth and stable visual presentation isn’t the only victim to this problem. The controls are as well. In most cases, the controls of this game work amazingly. I rarely felt like I was cheated out of something or that the game was unresponsive. Yet, I felt that the vacuum didn’t always work as I was expecting, and carrying around items to other places felt a bit … janky. Sometimes I dropped an item with me being unable to explain why my character dropped the item. 

But there also problems with the audiovisual presentation. The soundtrack of this game is just amazing. The variety of tracks in this game is just perfect. I really enjoy the fact there are different genres present in this game apart from all old-western-style music. The sound effects are pretty neat as well but don’t always play consistently. Sometimes they don’t play and sometimes they play for too long. Sounds that don’t always play are the drill when you are excavating relics and sounds that play too long are your gloves when you are using the super punch and cancel it. 

Not even the UI gets saved in build 2020-08-25. For some reason, there are still controller controls in the level bottom of the pause menu… while I don’t have a controller connected. On top of that, the counter for the number of unlocked endings is completely wrong. Just look at this screenshot to see both issues:

So yeah, it pains me to see this since you can clearly see that the rest of the UI is fine and works great. You can see your current main objective and your special mission to gain additional resources but mistakes like I mentioned above are just giving this game a sort of “beta” feel.

Now, most of the issues I mentioned so far I can personally overlook to a certain degree. Yes, they are annoying and they make the game less enjoyable but not unplayable for me. Yet, the thing that makes the game a bit unplayable in my opinion is the fact there is no real way to lose this game. There is no real danger in this game lurking. There is even no punishment for jumping in the ravine, you simply respawn next to your train.

So, is this game a bad or a good game? On one hand, this game is extremely relaxing and maybe it isn’t so bad that there isn’t a lot of danger lurking over your shoulder so you can enjoy the game at your own pace. Yet, on the other hand, I got a bit bored during parts of this game since I didn’t feel challenged at all.

I think the best conclusion is this. This game is perfectly balanced, as all things should be. While it has (huge) flaws that can turn people away, there are a lot of good things that can draw others in. I honestly think that with some more depth and polish, this game can become a real hit but in it’s current state, I think it will become a footnote in history.

Now, I think the big problem I have with this game is that I have played a game that did this concept a whole lot better in my opinion. I’m talking about SteamWorld Dig. Maybe I’m comparing this game and that game a bit too much in my mind diminishing my experience with this game. But, that makes this game: not a bad game. Since I enjoy trying to get the achievements in this game.

As I said earlier, I’m conflicted about this game. On one hand, I enjoy this game and I would recommend it to people who enjoy games like Minecraft or Steamworld Dig, but on the other hand, I don’t want to recommend this game since it needs a lot more work to be enjoyed by more than a niche audience. Also, I haven’t played the VR version of this game. Maybe that version is more polished.

Maybe when I finish all the endings, I might be able to form better opinions on this game. And who knows, maybe by then a few patches are released that improve the game and I might praise this game a lot more in my review. But for now, I think I’m going to wrap up this article. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!